FEATURE: Lister maternity unit celebrates first birthday

Lynne Horsley, maternity associate practitioner and midwife Tina Clark, with parents, Laura Kirk wit

Lynne Horsley, maternity associate practitioner and midwife Tina Clark, with parents, Laura Kirk with husband Paul Kirk and baby Josie at Lister hospital - Credit: Archant

LAST Friday marked the first anniversary since the official opening of Lister Hospital’s Diamond Jubilee Maternity Unit. Comet reporter Julie Lucas went to visit the facility one year on.

One of the birthing pools

One of the birthing pools - Credit: Archant

Approximately 5,000 people turned up last year to see the Queen officially open the £16.5 million pound facility and unveil the plaque which appears in the entrance hall.

The Queen visited Lister Hospital in Stevenage to officially open the new maternity unit

The Queen visited Lister Hospital in Stevenage to officially open the new maternity unit - Credit: Archant

Christine Bell, head of midwifery, said of the day: “We were very proud that the Queen chose to come here as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour. It was the perfect day, the sun shone, the band played and the atmosphere of the public who had been waiting from 6.30am in the morning was fantastic. We are honoured that the unit was named the Diamond Jubilee Maternity Unit.”

One of the delivery suites with a birthing pool

One of the delivery suites with a birthing pool - Credit: Archant

Since officially opening there have been 5,250 babies born, including 191 sets of twins and one set of triplets.

The unit started caring for mothers back in October 2011 transferring all inpatient care from the QEII and Herts County Hospital and now delivers around 100 babies a week, employing 195 midwives and 12 consultants.


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The new midwife-lead unit for women that have a low risk of complications includes seven birthing rooms, two of these with birthing pools. I am amazed at the size of the birthing pools, I imagined something inflatable but these are like jacuzzis. There have been 594 babies born over the past year with the aid of these birthing pools.

So far about 30 per cent of all babies born have been born in this new unit, with 170 babies born at home.

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There is also a consultant-lead unit downstairs with nine birthing rooms downstairs. Also downstairs is the specialised neonatal unit which has increased from 13 babies to now being able to support 30 babies. These babies can need anything from special care to full intensive care and can be as tiny as 800 grams (less than a packet of flour) or as early as 27 weeks.

Susie Mortimer from Stevenage had baby Alfie 12 weeks early. She said: “It’s like being part of a family here - you always feel comfortable. If you’re feeling stressed the staff really support you and look after you. There’s a feeling that the staff really care about both you and the baby.”

The rooms in the midwife-lead unit are bright and airy and decorated tastefully in pastel colours. The ones I see are spotlessly clean. All have ensuite bathrooms with baths and equipment is discretely tucked away. I am not surprised to hear that mums love them.

Unlike the old delivery suites, partners can stay over in the rooms – reclining chairs are provided and there are tea and coffee facilities available. Within reason there can be more than one birthing partner. This all goes to promote a more family friendly environment.

Amanda Digweed, 45 has been a midwife for 14 years, she said: “This unit far exceeds what we had before. It is so much better for both the women and for us. There is no comparison really. It is not uncommon for midwives to stay beyond their shift to give continuity and one to one in labour – it is a lovely place to work.”

It is not surprising that with these facilities complaints have gone down and patient satisfaction as well as staff satisfaction increased. It has also saved the Trust £1 million pound a year having everything on one site.

I meet Laura Kirk who has given birth three weeks early to a baby girl Josie. This is her first child. She said: “It has just been a really amazing experience, I could not have asked for any more. We had a midwife who was just fabulous. I feel that we have not been hurried but I also feel that if I wanted to, I could stay and get the support needed.

“My parents came last night and they stayed for the birth. They commented on this because my mother has been with my two sisters for their births and she thought this was a great facility. We planned a water birth and had no problems in getting one. I know in other hospitals it can be a bit hit and miss whether you can have one. I wouldn’t say the birth was particularly enjoyable but it was very calm.”

Husband Paul Kirk said: “Here it is so quite, it is reassuring. Also, just the fact that I am welcome to stay and treat it as a hotel room has made a difference. What they are trying to create here is a home from home environment. There is obviously a lot of thought gone into the place.”

On one side of the room is an inscription – every day holds the possibility of a miracle. I leave mum and dad to enjoy their miracle.

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